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Nigeria seek comfort in bronze battle against Tunisia

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Super Eagles’ striker, Odion Ighalo (left) is aiming for the highest goal scorer’s award. PHOTO: AFP.

It is not what they set out to achieve, but the Super Eagles now see winning the bronze medal as better than coming home from the African Nations Cup empty handed.

As they say in local parlance ‘at all at all na him bad,’the Nigerian team say they are determined to assuage the feelings of their disappointed fans by performing better against Tunisia than they did on Sunday when they took on Algeria.

The match would be supervised by renowned Egyptian referee, Gehad Grisha, who was in charge of two matches of the Super Eagles during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign: the 2-1 defeat of Zambia in Ndola in October 2016 and the 4-0 defeat of Cameroun in Uyo in September 2017.

Many Nigerians se today’s game with Tunisia as a farewell game for some of the senior players in the Nigerian team, including Odion Ighalo and Skipper John Obi Mikel, who unfortunately may not play today due to injury.

Looking forward to a rewarding end to his first AFCON, Super Eagles midfielder, Alex Iwobi told the media that he is determined to end the competition on a high.

He knows how disappointed Nigerians are that the Eagles did not get to the final, but Iwobi also believes a good outing today would go a long way in compensating for the semifinal loss to Algeria.

“We always take lessons from our mistakes,” Iwobi said.

“Even though we lost the semifinal, of course it hurts, there is no better place to put it right than in the third-fourth place play-off match.

“We are a young team and hope to return home with the third place. We will enter the game with the needed respect and seriousness.”

The Carthage Eagles had made it through to the semi-finals for the first time since winning the trophy on home soil in 2004.

Tunisia coach Alain Giresse admits his players could struggle regroup following their 1-0 loss on Wednesday night.

“I believe this is going to be a psychologically tough encounter because we are not over that defeat from Senegal yet,” Giresse said at a press conference.

“This is football and we understand the whole team disappointment – but we have to forget that and focus on Nigeria game.”

The only previous time both Eagles have clashed in the third place match of the Africa Cup of Nations was in 1978, but the encounter in Accra did not end as the Tunisians abandoned the match following Segun Odegbami’s equalizer late in the first half.

CAF duly awarded the match to Nigeria 2-0 and the Green Eagles received the bronze medals.

In other confrontations at the Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria lashed Tunisia 4-2 in a group phase match at the 2000 finals that Nigeria and Ghana co-hosted, while Tunisia, also on home ground, edged Nigeria on penalties after their semi final clash in Rades in 2004 was stalemated at 1-1 after regulation and extra time.

Perhaps the most memorable clash between the two at the AFCON remains their quarterfinal battle in 2006, also in Egypt. Cup holders Tunisia shot into a comfortable lead during the penalty shoot-out following another 1-1 stalemate after regulation and extra time at the El Masry Stadium in Port Said. But Nigeria rallied through saves by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and the Eagles eliminated the defending champions.

Leader of the Federal Government delegation to the championship, Senate President Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan on Sunday charged the Super Eagles to go all out for the bronze medals in order to finish their campaign in Egypt with a laurel – a charge re-inforced on Monday by NFF President Amaju Melvin Pinnick, Second Vice President, Shehu Dikko and General Secretary, Mohammed Sanusi.


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